BISMARCK, N.D. - A half-dozen North Dakota National Guard soldiers who have been serving in Afghanistan since last winter with the Guard's Detachment 42, Operational Support Airlift, are back home with their families today. Four arrived in Bismarck today while two others arrived at Fargo and Grand Forks.
Gov. Jack Dalrymple and North Dakota first lady Becky Dalrymple, Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, North Dakota adjutant general, family, friends and fellow guard members crowded into a hanger at the Guard's Army Aviation Support Facility south of the Bismarck Airport to welcome the soldiers home.
"We are thrilled to welcome home the members of Det. 42 and proud of the outstanding job they did throughout their deployment," said Dalrymple. "These soldiers performed a highly specialized mission and did so with great proficiency and success. We are grateful to them and their families for their extraordinary service and sacrifice, and are happy to have them safely back home with their loved ones tonight."
The soldiers were honored in a public send-off ceremony in January before training at Fort Hood, Texas, and then deploying to Afghanistan. While there, the unit operated King Air 300 aircraft equipped with Medium Altitude Reconnaissance Surveillance System platforms to provide aerial surveillance and support for military members on the ground. They served alongside other fixed-wing detachments from Arkansas, Maine, New Mexico, Puerto Rico and Utah. Together, the units comprised Task Force ODIN, which stands for observe, detect, identify and neutralize.
"It's always a great day when we can thank our soldiers for their dedicated service and also reunite them with their families and friends," said Sprynczynatyk. "Once again, Det. 42 did a fantastic job on a lengthy overseas mission, providing top-notch aviation support while helping to protect service members on the ground."
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Travis Bridwell, of Bismarck, served as the unit's commander and 1st Sgt. Russell Garrett, of Pick City, N.D., was the senior noncommissioned officer during the mission for the small, highly specialized group of soldiers.
Only a few North Dakota Guardsmen continue to serve overseas, although members of Company C, 2nd Battalion, 285th Aviation Regiment are expected to arrive in Kosovo soon for a yearlong mission. Another 200 soldiers are serving on a yearlong deployment to Washington, D.C., and three are serving for a year in Texas as part of the Southwest Border Mission.
Since the 2001 terrorist attacks on America, the North Dakota National Guard has mobilized more than 4,000 soldiers and more than 2,400 airmen in support of the global war on terrorism. About 70 percent of all members serving today have joined since that time. Currently, only a few North Dakota Guardsmen are serving overseas and more than 200 are on duty in Washington, D.C. With a total force of about 4,400 Guardsmen, the North Dakota National Guard remains ready for stateside response and national defense. For every 10,000 citizens in North Dakota, 65 serve in the North Dakota National Guard, a rate that's more than four times the national average.